Articles by/for Allies
Blessed Are the Lepers
By Ruth Feiler
Do you feel rejected by current LDS policy?
The Book of Mormon tells the story of a group of Nephites who lived in the land of Antonium when Alma the Younger was High Priest (Alma 31-35). The members of the wealthy orthodox religion built great churches wherein they stood on a high pulpit--the Rameumptom--and thanked God that they were more pure, righteous and holy than anyone else. The peasants were thrown out of the church, "being esteemed as filthiness."
The outcasts wondered how they could worship without going to church and receiving the sacraments. When emissaries from God visited the area, leader of the exiles inquired,
"Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men… for they have cast us out of our synagogues… and we have no place to worship our God, behold what shall we do?" (Alma 32:5)
Alma answered, in a great sermon about faith:
"Behold, I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?" (v. 10)
There have been outcasts in every religion and society since the dawn of time. Alma's advice is just as appropriate now as it was then.
"I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom…" (v. 12)
"I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out… lest ye become sinners like unto them;
"But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions." (v. 40-41)
The Jewish elite during the time of Christ was obsessed with spiritual purity-not attained through sanctification or righteous living, but by fastidiously avoiding anyone or anything deemed unclean. The list of the unclean was long:
Of course the gentiles--Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc.--were completely despised and avoided, including those who worshipped Jehovah and lived the Law of Moses. A Jew became unclean himself if he spoke to a gentile, ate with a gentile, or entered a gentile home or place of business. Tax collectors--many of whom were practicing Jews--were therefore automatically unclean due to their contact with gentile administrators.
The Samaritans were bitterly hated. Jews would travel out of their way a hundred miles through the desert to avoid polluting their shoes with Samaritan soil. It didn't matter that the Samaritans were descendents of Israel with the same language, culture, religion and traditions--They had been tainted with gentile blood 180 generations previously, and were therefore anathema for all time.
Anyone with a skin disease--psoriasis, eczema, infection, etc.--was forbidden entry into cities and towns. They were forced to live in caves in the wilderness, supported by food left by sympathetic relatives. If they did travel, they had to call out, "unclean," to insure that no holy Jew might inadvertently come near.
Jewish women spent much of their lives "unclean"--forbidden any contact with righteous men. Menstruation, childbirth, infection, sexual intercourse, etc. sent them out of the household into special isolation huts for weeks on end.
When the Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth, He generally disregarded these social prohibitions. On the contrary, chapter after chapter of the New Testament make it clear--The Divine Ministry focused primarily on the outcasts of Judaism. His disciples included women, Samaritans, Canaanites, Romans, tax collectors and lepers. He dined with them, taught them, blessed them, and lived with them.
Christ's communion with outcasts caused continual alarm in the self-righteous leaders of the Chosen People: "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (Matt. 9:11) was an oft-repeated complaint--a complaint completely ignored by the Messiah.
Although Christ chastised hypocrisy, He still admonished His disciples to sustain the authority of the religious leadership:
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
These same instructions still apply to modern disciples of Christ.
"All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
"For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." (Matt. 23:2-4)
The African Blacks
For the first hundred and fifty years of the Church's existence in the latter days, African blacks were denied the priesthood. They could not do temple work, including eternal marriage. They could not hold leadership positions. Fathers could not baptize or bless their children. They couldn't even offer prayer in Sacrament Meeting.
A complex tradition, mingled with scripture, arose to justify the Church's
position regarding blacks: Cain was their ancestor, experts explained,
cursed with a black skin for his sins. The lineage was traced through
the pharaoh of Egypt, who believed the gospel but was likewise denied
the priesthood. Modern blacks deserved the curse because they were less
valiant in the pre-mortal existence. And so on and so forth…. [See Andrus,
Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, (1967) pp. 400-407;
Then, on June 8, 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball received revelation opening priesthood blessings to all faithful, worthy men, without regard for race or color. Suddenly all those complex circumlocutions vanished; BYU scholars now publish articles showing that the words "black" and "white" in the Book of Mormon do NOT refer to skin color but are metaphors for righteousness.
The current status of homosexuals in the Church closely mirrors the status of the Africans a few decades ago: both were treated as "second class saints"; both were told they were "less valiant" children of God; both seemed to be limited in their eternal prospects-all this purportedly justified by Holy Writ.
How long will it be until homosexuals will be likewise accepted into the Gospel and granted the priesthood? In 1978 the first presidency described their efforts to receive the Lord's Will regarding the priesthood:
"…We have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance."
(Revelation on the Priesthood, June 8, 1978)
Perhaps we're simply waiting until the First Presidency feels motivated to expend similar toil in behalf of their homosexual children, brothers and sisters….
The Church's Perspective
Face it: we live in an era of intense homophobia. We really don't know
the "reason" God denied the priesthood to blacks during the infancy
of the Church, but there is no question that there was similar extreme
prejudice against blacks 150 years ago. (For political considerations
of race in the 19th century, see History of the Church, Vol.
1 pp. 326-328)
Other denominations going through the struggle for gender tolerance are being torn apart. People have asked reformers, "Why don't you step aside, and save your church?" There may be similar priorities regarding gender policy changes in the LDS church.
…And this is not an issue of corrupting True Doctrine at the whim of the masses: God has OFTEN adjusted His requirements depending on mankind's readiness for His Gospel: Moses broke the original tablets and returned with a lesser law. Solomon's temple was destroyed and priesthood authority was taken from the earth after Christ's earthly ministry. In this dispensation, polygamy and the united order have both been withdrawn when social resistance intensified.
Gender equality in the Church may simply be waiting for a people ready to receive it. This MAY be the reason letters to Salt Lake City regarding homosexual policy receive a bland reply: the concerns may be more social than doctrinal. Are you willing to be patient, if it's a matter of the future success of God's Kingdom?
Notice that changes in basic Church doctrine do NOT come about through scholarly scriptural exegesis, angry letters to the first presidency, nor million-man protests down State Street.
But change DOES take place. The wording of the temple ceremony was modified when the Brethren realized how much certain sections offended some righteous members. The General Authorities listen to letters describing pain and anguish, but NOT condemnation or criticism.
It may be important that major doctrinal changes have followed closely on the heels of national legislation: withdrawal of Polygamy (1890) after the Edmunds Act (1882); priesthood for the blacks (1978) after the Civil Rights Act (1964). A letter to Washington may be more effective in changing Church policy than a letter to Salt Lake.
Some Church leaders claim that homosexuals have forfeited all possibility of salvation or eternal exaltation. A primary basis for the claim is a supposed requirement for a heterosexual family in the spirit world.
It's popular to imagine the afterlife as a continuation of this earthlife, but without the need for health insurance. Righteous Church members go to the Celestial Kingdom, where they will prepare for future godhood. Godhood means spirit children, and the fledgling gods will need at least 20 billion of them to populate a future creation. Surely each child will be created through individual insemination of an exalted female, followed by nine months of gestation--that means heterosexual heavenly parents..
How can righteous homosexuals find a place in the eternities? The knee-jerk answer is, since they can't produce children, there is NO room for homosexuals in the afterlife.
Not necessarily. NO ONE knows the details of future existence. Even if the "copulating heterosexual" scenario is roughly accurate, homosexuality may be a "challenge" imposed during this mortality only, like being deaf or blind. It's POSSIBLE that homosexuals will find themselves heterosexual after resurrection.
Christ and His disciples passed a man who had been born blind. The disciples asked,
"Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
Thereupon Christ healed the man--to the infinite consternation of the Pharisees, who maintained to the end that the man was a wretched sinner. (John 9:1-3, 27-41)
"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
Arrival at the heavenly portals without a spouse is not an insurmountable problem for the Lord. The prophet Lorenzo Snow explained, "Now, though he died without any wife he will not be the loser thereby, for the Lord will supply all that is necessary to give him the salvation he merits. So also will it be with those who are prevented by no act of their own from fulfilling all the requirements of the gospel." (Minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve, Sept 30, 1890)
Of course, it's also POSSIBLE that 20 billion spirit children will be created through a different means--a means equally accessible to homosexual couples AS WELL AS heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples MAY, in some future more charitable society, earn access to full temple blessings--including temple marriage--just as the blacks have.
The Proclamation on the Family describes the eternal nature of marriage and the family. Re-read it with a same-sex temple marriage in mind.
Beyond that, Doctrine & Covenants Section 131:1-4 states that even a righteous man who remains voluntarily unmarried MAY attain the Celestial Kingdom:
"In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
From Satan's point of view, there's no room for second best--if you can't achieve the highest rank of the highest kingdom, then you must be a dismal failure. However, in God's economy, there's an honorable place for EVERYONE--a stake president is no more intrinsically glorious than a nursery leader; they merely contribute to the Kingdom in a different manner:
"And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]
"And, if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
"He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have increase."
"And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
(I Cor. 12:20-25)
Devoted servants without heterosexual spouses are promised an honorable place at God's right hand. Inhabitants of the other two thirds of the Celestial Kingdom are still exalted beings.
"Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary;
"And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness."
These scenarios are not meant to be speculation of how the afterlife might or will be, but rather to simply point out that there ARE possible alternatives consistent with Church doctrine that still provide room for righteous homosexuality. It's likely that the actual conditions of Celestial Life will be far more spectacular than our human minds can imagine--and that God has a place for ALL his faithful children.
God loves ALL of His children, unconditionally. His Grace is sufficient for all who come unto him. Nothing is impossible for the Lord.
ALL people have challenges, not necessarily related to sin:
"I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)
Challenges CAN be stepping stones to divinity--if they foster personal humility, tolerance, patience and supplication. Or the same challenges can become terrible obstacles on the road to damnation, if they provoke hostility, guilt and resentment.
Some challenges may test the people AROUND you, more than they test you yourself. Can self-proclaimed Christians show charity to someone who is on a different path? Do they truly believe in spiritual brotherhood, unconditional love, unconditional atonement, unlimited grace?
EVERYONE has precious gifts and strengths that make them unique. You are well aware that your sexual identity is directly linked to many critical aspects of your personality--creativity, spontaneity, empathy, etc. Even if there WERE a "cure" (lobotomy, for example), it would erase an essential part of your soul.
Celebrate and magnify your gifts--they are from God, a manifestation of His Love.
And plead with God for a time when the doors of the Kingdom on Earth will open to ALL of God's children.
Is Homosexuality a Sin?
The answer is WITHIN YOU. The answer is not in the scriptures or in other people's opinions. Does this thing draw you closer to your Father in Heaven?
Christ taught how to discern the truth:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
"Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:16-18; 20)
Alma suggested a similar test:
"It must be that it is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
"And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth fruit unto its own likeness." (Alma 32:28, 31)
Our stories are similar: when you first feel the stirrings, you resist them. All of society and the Church scream that these feelings are the Ultimate Evil. You do all the things Church leaders advise-search the scriptures, pray earnestly for weeks on end, sing hymns….
You date the opposite sex in a desperate need to find those heterosexual feelings that "good people" have.
But it won't go away, no matter what you do. Soon it defines your entire
existence: When the bishop tells the congregation in sacrament meeting,
"I love every one of you," you say to yourself, you wouldn't love
me if you knew; I'd be out on the street! Your life is filled with
guilt, frustration, resentment and doubt.
You even doubt God. If everyone else's love turns out to have a limit, why not His?
The doctrine that your inborn nature is an irrevocable sin alienates you from the True Gospel and brings you to the brink of destruction--it is an evil seed that should be cast out.
Then comes that amazing day when you stop fighting it--a day as glorious as the day of your original conversion to the Gospel. Acceptance usually comes when you meet someone just like you--maybe a bit farther down the road. They assure you that you are not automatically an outcast in GOD's eyes.
Finally you can admit that this is an indispensable part of your being. Instead of resisting, you decide to follow it wherever it leads, even if it's down an unorthodox pathway.
Acceptance of your true inner nature transforms the entire universe. The guilt is swept away, replaced by great peace and comfort. A great weight is lifted from your shoulders. Happiness is actually POSSIBLE. You start to rebuild a relationship with God based on your true self--and realize that this can be a special GIFT with exceptional possibilities. Your Father in Heaven DOES love you! He promises His support down this strange path.
What used to be an obstacle now becomes a vehicle to propel you to unimaginable spiritual heights. It's you and God together against the world; He is your support, and your closest friend. Miracles happen in your life, and you see the Hand of God.
Is it a sin, this thing that brought you into the presence of the True God? Is acknowledgment of your true nature a good or a bad seed?
But damnation also can mean a lack of spiritual growth. You've gotten your faith back, but what are you going to DO with it?
Do you launch a crusade against the Mormons? Is that really what God would have you do? Is that a good fruit that will bring happiness into your life and the lives around you?
Everyone's road is a little different--you must find your own unique path. But one of the greatest works in this life is helping God's other children. You have been given special gifts and insights that all those other orthodox people don't have. Use your special gifts in the service of God and in the building of God's Kingdom in your ordained place in the world.
"Let your life so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)